Little Tibet: Ladakh
Ladakh is a transcendental land of Himalayan peaks, snow deserts, shimmering high altitude lakes, and ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Only open to the outside world in the summer months, this enigmatic lunar landscape is a traveller’s dream come true. Highlights of this journey involve hiking through lush Himalayan valleys, driving through the highest motorable road in the world, interacting with the locals and visiting several ancient monasteries perched on hilltops.
Delhi – Leh – Tingmosgam – Ulleytokpo – Leh – Nubra Valley – Leh – Delhi
Day 1. Arrive in Delhi
You will be assisted on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Morning will be at leisure. In the afternoon, drive to visit Humayun’s Tomb, which is built in the Indo-Persian style and a predecessor to The Taj Mahal in Agra, and India Gate – A War Memorial Arch. Also, drive past the President’s House called Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, Government Secretariat buildings, and Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi and a busy shopping center. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 2: Delhi – Leh
After a sumptuous early breakfast, you will be transferred to the domestic airport for your flight to Ladakh. This may be one of the most sensational flights in the world for you. On a clear day, from one side of the aircraft, you can behold the mesmerising peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat, and Gasherbrum, and on the other side of the aircraft, you might feel that you could reach out and touch the Nun Kun massif. Transfer to your hotel on arrival. Leisure time to settle in and acclimatize to the environment, which is over 11,000 feet above New Delhi.
During the evening, visit the Shanti Stupa, a Japanese peace pagoda. A Japanese religious organisation led by head monk Nakamura built this stupa with the help of the local citizens of the area. It is situated on a hilltop in Changspa village, providing a bird’s eye view of the town of Leh and the surrounding mountain peaks. Savour the breathtaking sunset view from here. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 3: Leh
The morning is at leisure to acclimatize to the rarefied air. You can choose to take a walk along the main bazaar to observe the daily activities of the locals. A particularly attractive sight is the line of women from nearby villages sitting along the edge of the footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables for sale. Behind the main bazaar, Chang Gali is a less crowded area, but it has interesting little shops selling curios and jewellery. Further on are the labyrinthine alleys and piled-up houses of the old town, clustering around the foot of the Palace Hill. In the other direction, down in the bazaar, are the Tibetan markets where one can bargain for pearls, turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli and various other kinds of semi-precious stones and jewellery, as well as for carved yak-horn boxes, quaint brass locks, and china or metal bowls. For lunch, one can step into any of several restaurants; some of them located in gardens or on the sidewalks and serve delicious, local Tibetan, Indian and Continental cuisine. In the afternoon you will drive to Saboo, 8 km from Leh, standing regally on the top of a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley. It is one of the less frequented gompas in Leh.
On your drive back to Leh, you will visit SOS Village (Choglamsar). Choglamsar is an important centre for the study of Tibetan culture and history. It houses the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, a Tibetan library, a medical centre, shops selling handicrafts and books, and plenty of restaurants. You can also visit the nearby golf course, horticulture nurseries and a polo ground. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 4: Leh
Begin your day by rising early in the morning to attend the morning prayers at the Hemis Monastery for a soul-stirring experience. One can witness the monks reciting the sacred mantras. If given an opportunity we will have a brief interaction with one of the senior monks of the monastery. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
Later drive to visit the Thikse Monastery, which is one of the most vibrant and active monasteries in the region. It dates back to the 16th century and is part of the Gelug-pa sect. It is headed by successive reincarnations of the Khanpo Rimpoche. The monastery is 12-floors high and painted in deep shades of red, ocher and white. It has evolved around a central courtyard with buildings surrounding it from three sides. At one extreme lies the main dukhang, which houses numerous racks containing religious texts. There is a small chamber that contains images of revered deities.
Continue your drive traveling upstream along the Indus River to Hemis Gompa, crossing over the Indus at the village of Karu. The most famous of Ladakh’s monasteries, Hemis or Changchub Samstanling (the love palace of the compassionate person), dates back to the 17th century and was built over a period of 40 years (1602 – 1642 A.D.). Today Hemis is well known for its festival, Hemis Tsechu, commemorating the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. In the year of the Monkey (every 12 years) a giant thangka depicting Guru Padmasambhava is unfurled from the terrace draping the five-storey facade. Delicately wrought in pearls and appliqué, it is one of the most famous art treasures of Ladakh. The central courtyard forms the focus for the masked dances held every year in summer. In the dukhang, remnants of the original 17th-century murals can be seen. The gompa has an excellent library, well-preserved frescoes and murals, silver gilt chortens, and a Kashmiri lacquered wooden throne. After the visit, enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Indus River. After lunch, you will be taken to the embarkation point, from where you will have a floating trip on the Indus River, which gives you a broader perspective of the landscape. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 5: Leh-Alchi
Begin your journey of the day by driving out of Leh to visit the Alchi Gompa. It is an elaborate complex of temples, built amidst the beautiful villages and considered as one of the most revered monasteries of Ladakh, dating back to the 11th century. There is a group of five temples in the complex, complemented by a number of chortens. Among those, the Dukhang and the three-tiered Sumstek are the most significant. Alchi Gompa is the only monastery built on flat ground. It is very famous for its paintings and architecture, which are influenced by Indian and Kashmiri art. After your visit, you drive to Temisgam. On arrival at Tingmosgang you will be taken to the houses of the local villagers with whom you will be spending the night. In the evening, spend your time with locals – interact with them to know more about their culture and daily lives or enjoy a walk amidst large gardens of apricot trees. Experience warm traditional Ladakhi hospitality during your home stay for the night.
Day 6: Temisgam – Lamayuru – Ulleytokpo
After breakfast, you will proceed to Lamayuru to visit the 11th century Lamayuru Monastery, which is stunningly located along the valley plain and surrounded by mountains on all sides. According to the legends, the arhat Madhyantika, a disciple of Buddha offered torma (sacred food) and water to the spirits inhabiting the site here to pacify them. Because of that, rain water spilled on the soil which caused barley plants to sprout in the shape of Yung-drung (swastika), hence it is named as Yung-Drung. The great yogi Naropa meditated in a cave, which today forms part of the monastery. The monastery has gradually expanded over the years and newer structures have been built around a large courtyard. The antiquity of this site is evident from the large number of chortens, similar to those at Alchi. After the visit drive to Ulleytokpo for an overnight stay.
Day 7: Uleytokpo – Leh
Today from Uleytokpo you will drive till the road head and walk for approximately one hour to visit the Chulichan Nunnery. Around 20 nuns reside at Chulichan; they provide food and clothes to the monks. Besides that, they also perform prayers in the morning and evening. After the visit, cover one and a half kilometers on foot to visit Ridzong Gompa, which is one of the less frequented monasteries of Ladakh. Relatively new (1840), it is beautifully set in a valley, deep inside a gorge and it is also the most isolated monastery in Ladakh. About 140 years ago, Lama Tsultim Nima founded this gompa and a monastic community was introduced with some strict rules and regulations. It has a wonderful collection of thangkas. Drive back to Leh for dinner and overnight stay at hotel.
Day 8: Leh
The road journey from Leh to the Nubra Valley passes over Khardung La (the highest motorable road in the world) at 5602 M / 18,390 Ft, around 39 km from Leh. From the pass, one can behold the breathtaking sights all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif. Nubra Valley is popularly known as Ldumra or the valley of flowers. It is situated in the north of Ladakh between the Karakoram and Ladakh ranges of the Himalayas. The average altitude of the valley is 10,000 Ft. above sea level. Nearby villages look beautiful as they are dotted with willow and poplar trees.
Before proceeding to your camp stop to visit Diskit Monastery perched on a rock overhanging next to a stream, which provides the source of energy used by mills in the area. The monastery is full of thangkas and has magnificent giant statues of the Buddha and old mural paintings. It was founded by Lama Sherab Zangpo of Stod around 1420 A.D. Diskit is the main village or headquarters of the Nubra Valley, which has a small market consisting of a row of shops. After your visit you continue to your camp for an overnight stay.
Day 9: Nubra Valley
After breakfast you will get the unique opportunity to ride on a Bactrian camel (double humped) amidst the sand dunes of this high altitude desert overlooking the snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Thereafter, crossing over the Shayok River you will be driven upstream along the Siachen River to Panamik. This place has a number of hot springs on the right side of the road. Panamik is literally the end of the road for this trip and one has to return from this spot. On the return journey you stop by to visit Samstanling Gompa founded by Lama Tsultims Nima. From here you will drive back to your camp for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 10: Hunder – Leh
After breakfast drive to Leh over Khardung La. Afternoon rest or take a walk to the local market. A farewell dinner with a local cultural show. Overnight stay at your hotel.
Day 11: Leh – Delhi
You will be transferred in time to the airport for your flight to Delhi. In Delhi, you will be assisted on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of Old Delhi to get a feel of the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city. The tour will include a visit to Red Fort, which was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638 and was the seat of the Mughal power till the last emperor was dethroned. Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques, was built is 1656. You will also enjoy a walking tour in Chandni Chowk, the silver street of Delhi, bustling with activity. On your way back visit Raj Ghat, the cremation ghat of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.
Day 12: Depart Delhi
In time transfer to the International airport to board your flight for home.
Optional Extension to Tso-Moriri (Karzok) from Leh
Day 11: Leh – Tso moriri (Karzok)
Early morning drive along the Indus River into the Rupshu Valley. It is a nice wilderness drive up to Tso-Moriri Lake. Arrive in Tsomoriri by late noon and check-in to the camp. Spend the evening relaxing and then overnight at the tented camp at Korzok village by the lake side. Korzok is the only village and one of the highest altitude settlements in Ladakh. Now, through a vast expanse of wilderness, you will approach Tso Moriri, which surprises you with a lovely sight of ducks swimming in turquoise blue water. Also known as Mountain Lake, Tso Moriri rests in the centre of Rupshu Valley, which is surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The inhabitants of the valley are some nomadic shepherds known as Changpas, who also do business in Ladakh, Lahaul, and Spiti. You can also behold several forms of wildlife here, such as Kyang (wild ass), red fox, black-necked crane, and geese among others. Overnight stay in fixed Camp.
Day 12: In Tso Moriri (Karzok)
Spend the morning exploring nearby places. Explore the culture and daily chores of nomads, living amidst harsh conditions on the grazing plateau with their cattle. It is an experience and interaction that will never be forgotten. Those choosing not to visit the nomadic tribes may visit the village of Karzok beside the lake. You will also notice a meditation centre some distance away from the village. Choose to visit the Karzok Monastery or idle away time with the locals. Here you have an opportunity to interact with the nomads and enjoy lunch together and explore more to get familiar with the nomadic daily life. Overnight stay in the camps.
Day 13 Tso Moriri – Leh
After breakfast drive back to reach the Manali-Leh highway crossing Pang and the Morai plains, and climb to the top of Tanglangla Pass (5,400m). On the way, savour some incredible views from the top and descend by following the Leh Highway. Reach Upsi by crossing the Indus River, and follow the highway up to Leh. Evening at leisure. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Each of our programs can be customised to our clients’ desires. Enquire now for a tailor-made Indus experience!
Best time to visit: Ladakh is open for travelers from June till September every year.
Duration: 12 days
Themes: Culture, Heritage, Himalayas, Soft Adventure, Nature Walks, Buddhism.
Regions you will discover: Delhi, Leh and Ladakh
Transport within India:
Private air-conditioned chauffeur-driven car
Price: Available on request for relevant travel month
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